Journal Of The Arts
October 4, 1973
They call her Bette (rhymes with fret) Midler. She calls herself The Divine Miss M.
She looks like she came out of a ’30s nightmare, she sings like she came out of the bluesy 40s (sometimes), she talks like she walked out of the 50s (“and now,” she says, “another blasto from the pasto”), she swears like she came out of the liberated 60s.
And here she is. In Albuquerque Tonight, at Popejoy Hall, the latest stop in a non-stop and very bizarre career. But why Albuquerque? “We’re making,” this Hawaiian Jew declares, “a tour of the tackiest towns in the United States.”
Bette Midler is like that. She travels with a vocal troop called the Harlettes and, wrote the National Observer, “they wiggle onstage in low-cut slinky black dresses and red platform shoes as she introduces them: “Three cocktail waitresses, right off the streets.'”
Bette first lived in Hawaii. Then a bit part in the movie “Hawaii” which she followed to Los Angeles where much of the filming took place. From there to “Fiddler on the Roof.” And from there to the Continental Steam Baths in the Big Apple, NYC, where she entertained all male audiences dressed in Turkish towels. It was there that the camp, the nostalgia (she loves the Andrews Sisters – “those girls were so pulled together they could raise their eyebrows in unison,”) were born.
It was there that she began reviving a forgotten American popular music past, and it was there that she was tabbed by Johnny Carson and came to the attention of the rest of these United States. Bette Midler, trading on the past, singing in the present with two eyes on the future, is going to be very, very big – as big, maybe, as the people she’s been compared to: Lena Home, Judy Garland, Edith Piaf and (who else?) Barbra Streisand.
She was supposed to be on the cover of Newsweek this week but Spiro Agnew bumped her off. Bumping Bette has been re-scheduled for next week.
After that, and after the movie contracts she has been offered, and the recording contracts, and everything else, it is safe to predict that the Divine Miss M may never be back to Albuquerque again. Unless the star starts dimming and there is no indication of that. At least we’ll be able to say we knew her When.